Reflections on TEDxLondon: The Education Revolution

As I said in my previous post about TEDxLondon, I spent Saturday listening to and watching sixteen thinkers and doers talk about an education revolution. Their talks were divided into three parts:

  • What’s Wrong?
  • What’s Right?
  • What’s Next?
It was a metaphor for teaching and learning in today’s information landscape.

I’ll say here and first that one of the aspects of this education-oriented TEDx that impressed me was that the presenters were not all educators talking about the same thing’s they’d be talking about at an education conference. Their ideas were mostly sideways tilted, thought-provoking, and brain tickling, and typically lasted for less than ten minutes.

It started with an orienting talk from Sir Ken Robinson, videoconferenced in from his new home — Los Angeles. In that talk he said that the fundamental reasons for education were Economic (grow/sustain economy), Cultural (awareness of one’s own culture and that of others), and Personal (self-knowledge: who am I? What are my talents and aspirations? What is my future?). He said that going back to the basics means a renewed focus on these three fundamentals, not the 3Rs. Supporting this idea, a following speaker shared an African proverb that was new to me.

Unless we continue to initiate our (children) into the village, they will burn it down just to feel the heat.

Another statement that prompted my note taking was Dan Roberts, “Technology is not a new tool for learning. It’s a whole new way of learning.” it’s one of those ideas that’s a no-brainer for many of us, yet not understanding this one very simple concept is proving to be a huge barrier to transforming education. Roberts went on to say (my paraphrasing) that education will be irrelevant unless we pay attention to how kids live and learn outside the classroom and carry that into our more formal learning environment. It’s not a simple task and there is still much that we do not know about their ‘native’ learning experiences.

This was illustrated by Nick Stanhopes’ Historypin (vid).  It is probably my background as a history teacher, but this one sizzled my brain. Stanhopes said, “Every spot on the planet has an amazing column of history running out behind it,” and much of that history is recorded in photographs.

Historypin aligns collected and submitted photographs, with their stories, to a map and to current street views of specific locations. When a learner can see the image of a historic event, or even more subtle local occurrences, overlaying the spot as it is now, then history comes alive, because it gets connected.  It’s about context.

Within context, questions come, and isn’t that where you want learners to be — asking questions.  Ewan McIntosh gave a brilliantly talk about the power of questions and problems.  He said that questions are incredibly important, and that we need to do everything we can to make sure that children keep asking them.

What really wrinkled my brain was an entertaining demonstration of interactive electronic music by Tim Exile.  As he talked, he would capture the audio of various phrases, and then replay them as music with pitch, reverb, and rhythm — twisting, turning, and tapping at a wild array of electronic devices.

Then he introduced an online real time community where members uploaded sound files, and he mixed them in, creating an almost organic stew of “music.”  It was a metaphor for teaching and learning in today’s information landscape.

There was so much more that I could comment on, but the question arises, what is the education revolution?

The education revolution

  1. not about new tools. It’s a new approach to learning and teaching
  2. ..does not separate knowledge, it layers knowledge
  3. The Education Revolution is understanding that learning happens best within a context that is real, has color and flavor, and provokes new questions.
  4. alchemy.  It is resourcefully, inventively, and responsibly mixing information; boiling it into new knowledge, new action, new relationships, and into richer personal identities, cultural understandings, and greater opportunities.

What would you add?

14 thoughts on “Reflections on TEDxLondon: The Education Revolution”

  1. I’d add that the education revolution is a learning revolution. Words are important, and I like this distinction. Instead of focusing on school and formal structures for education, we need to focus on learning. Calling this a “learning revolution” rather than an “education revolution” can help advance that purpose.

    I’d also add that the learning revolution is about students as well as teachers MAKING STUFF. Without creation there can be no creativity. Learners shifting from predominantly being content consumers to increasingly becoming content CREATORS is a key element. Not everyone buys into the value/utility of this educational model, but they should. We all learn better when we make stuff and learning is hands-on. Digital tools can and should play an important role in this process of creating and sharing content, which becomes part of our digital portfolios representing what we think, know, and can do.

    Thanks for sharing this post, David. What a great conference. Sounds like it was very inspirational! When are we going to have a similar event here in the USA focused on the education/learning revolution?!

    1. @Wesley Fryer, That’s what I would call it as well. As I’m sure you realize, I was addressing a specific event with a specifically worded theme. But I agree that wording is essential, because that’s where interpretation comes from — and as you say it’s learning that needs to be our focus and our practice.

      Thanks for adding this to the conversation…

  2. Yes, to Learning Revolution.
    Yes, to learners being creators. I’ve used the phrase knowledge producers over the years. I’ll also add that there is a place for creation for real audiences a.k.a “getting beyond the fridge door” and links with community and experts (with a broad definition of community).

    I’ve been working in this space for over a decade. Sadly I think our education systems are moving in a different direction. Here is a link to something I wrote over 7 years
    There is also a basic wiki about Knowledge Producing Schools

    Thanks for the flagging the TEDxLondon event. I’m looking forward to viewing some of the videos.

  3. With technology at the forefront of education today I concur with the statement made by Dan Roberts, “Technology is not a new tool for learning. It’s a whole new way of learning.” I witness many teachers falling victim to the demands of the rapid changes that are presented with the ever present technological advancements in today’s society. There are factors to be considered with this. For one, many of the older generation teachers have exposure to the technology but no idea of how to effectively utilize. Secondly, the younger generation of teachers, the more exposure they have already had because this is what we have been born into. So we have to have an understanding of where we are, where we are trying to go, and how we are going to get there in regards to technology in the classrooms without feeling pressured by rapidly changing expectations.

    -just a thought, please feel free to add comments and or suggestions.

    Mrs. Johnson

  4. Thanks for a great post. I thought it was very enlightening when you wrote that (according to Dan Roberts), “that education will be irrelevant unless we pay attention to how kids live and learn outside the classroom and carry that into our more formal learning environment.”

    In today’s world, our students are on top of the technology . It would be to our benefit to stay at the top and remain flexible and willing to change as they are, and use this to inform our learning communities of practice.

  5. i agree thateducation revolution is not just for students, but for teachers as well.they are going in front of a new,they are confronting with new will bring many benefits withitself, but i have aquestion here,preparing children for life in a digital world by providing technology-rich learning environments will be beneficial, but what they will lose?

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